Trump’s family: a constant in the chaos

Donald Trump’s administration has been the most tumultuous in modern history, with a record number of cabinet secretaries and officials quitting or being fired.

But throughout it all, the president has relied on an unchanging group of advisers who have offered unwavering support: his family.

Their loyalty was on display again this week as Mr Trump launched a last-ditch legal effort to prevent his successor Joe Biden from entering the White House.

On Thursday, his second eldest son Eric Trump appeared alongside wife Lara — who is also a campaign adviser — at a hastily scheduled press conference in Philadelphia that laid out the president’s unsubstantiated charges of voter fraud in Pennsylvania.

Meanwhile, Mr Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr, flew to Atlanta, where he claimed in front of boisterous supporters that “magical boxes” of ballots were appearing at polling stations around the country.

Their role as cheerleaders-in-chief has become all the more important given that few in the Republican establishment have been willing to support the president’s baseless claims of mass voter fraud — a betrayal that was not lost on Mr Trump Jr.

“I think Democrats are used to this from a Republican party that hasn’t had a backbone. You’re not going to see that this time around,” Mr Trump Jr declared, with his girlfriend — the Trump campaign’s finance director Kimberly Guilfoyle — by his side. “That party is gone and anybody who doesn’t fight . . . should go with it.”

It was emblematic of the unusual role the adult Trump children have played in his administration and during his two campaigns. His immediate family are among the very few Trump surrogates who have the president’s ear and can present a more nuanced portrait of the man.

Each of the children and their partners have played a different role in the drama of Mr Trump’s White House, which has felt at times like a cross between The West Wing and Succession.

Eric and Trump Jr have taken the role of “pit bulls”, as one person who knows the president’s eldest son put it, aggressively attacking their father’s enemies.

The president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, has taken a softer approach. This week she borrowed talking points from some top Republican leaders, taking to Twitter to express support for “free and fair elections” while insisting that “every legally cast vote should be counted”.

Eric Trump and his wife Lara have led allegations of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election © REUTERS

Her husband, Jared Kushner, has remained behind the scenes. The New York Times reported that he was working the phones to find a reputable Republican establishment figure who could make a credible legal case for Mr Trump’s continued path to victory, so far without much success.

While the role of the Trump children in his administration and business affairs is without precedent in modern history, their job as surrogates in recent days echoes the scandals of the Nixon administration.

“What Eric, Don Jr. and Ivanka are doing now reminds me of the Nixons’ daughter Julie who once even served as a stand-in for her father during a press conference as the Watergate investigation raged on,” said Kate Andersen Brower, author of several books about the White House, including Team of Five and First Women.

“Their backs are against the wall and they’re rallying together, no matter how senseless their efforts may seem,” Ms Andersen Brower added.

Since Mr Trump announced his long-shot presidential bid in 2015, his three adult children from his first marriage to Ivana Trump, and their spouses, have been at his side. They are among the very few who have survived the president’s entire four year tenure, as Mr Trump dismissed one aide after another for perceived disloyalty.

At the White House, Mr Kushner managed a sprawling policy portfolio spanning criminal justice reform to peace in the Middle East, while Ms Trump had a wide-ranging remit that at one point included temporarily filling her father’s seat at the G20.

Mr Trump’s two eldest sons stayed behind in New York to run the family business. But they have continued to take part in ceremonial duties, such as travelling with the administration on a state visit to the UK.

All of his adult children — including Tiffany Trump — were given prime speaking spots during this year’s Republican National Convention, as were Ms Guilfoyle and Lara Trump.

And when Mr Trump revealed he had tested positive for coronavirus at the beginning of October, forcing him off the campaign trail, it was his children who took his place at fundraisers and criss-crossed the country to keep his hopes of re-election alive.

People who know them say it is unclear what the children will do now that they are not the first family.

Mr Trump Jr, who has embraced his father’s “red meat” appeal, is likely to try to stay in politics, supporting pro-Trump Republicans and perhaps one day running for office himself, the person who knows him said.

A person who knows Ms Trump and Mr Kushner said the couple had not spent a lot of time thinking about their next steps as “they thought they were going to win”. But it would be surprising if either simply went back to their previous business ventures — her eponymous fashion line and his real estate portfolio.

“It’s a question of what [president Trump] wants to do,” the person said. “If he wants to run again in 2024 that might impact what they can do too.”

While the couple might have once had ambitions of returning to their own life and social status in New York City, they have slowly reconciled themselves to the fact that they would not be welcomed back to Manhattan by some in their former circle.

“They were trying to have their cake and eat it too; stay friends with their friends in New York and have Trump,” the person said.

“As the years went on they realised it was impossible . . . I think they’ve kind of gone all in on [the idea of] ‘We don’t care about our previous life. We are Trump Republicans and that’s our world.”

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